Socially inclusive governance

It’s very rare I write about anything to do with geopolitics, in fact it’s currently rare that I write about anything other than risk/reinsurance over at, but a paper I read this morning has got me thinking and in an effort to do more personal blogging here we go.
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Talking hurricane Sandy and catastrophe bonds on Russia Today (RT) TV

The 30th October was a memorable day. I was having one of my busiest days ever on Artemis, with traffic having jumped by a factor of 20+ because of interest in our coverage of hurricane Sandy’s impact on the U.S. northeast. Our articles and insight had been picked up by a number of news organisations, including the FT, Le Monde in France, Australian press and some South American news organisations, and then I got an email from Lauren Lyster of Russia Today’s (RT’s) Capital Account.
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Travel GDS’ need to work backwards from the user experience

Apparently Amadeus, one of the world’s largest travel GDS (global distribution system) companies is investing €200m of loans in improvements in their software and services. They make bold claims that they want to ‘revolutionise the travel industry’ which would be fantastic if they could, given their scale and reach, but part of me worries that we’ll end up with something designed from the inside out rather than from the outside in.
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On complexity in online travel

On Saturday morning I woke up early thinking about complexity. I blame this on a couple of recent online travel consultancy jobs I’ve done and also on my experiences with travel companies I’ve worked for in the past who were either undergoing a change of reservation system or building their own back-end and packaging systems. Selling travel online is just about as complex as it gets. However, that complexity doesn’t need to be displayed to your users or customers and in fact you should do everything you can to avoid that.
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Will Google+ be gamed by SEO’s?

I’ve yet to see anyone get particularly excited about the launch of Google+ from an SEO perspective but believe me they will… I’ve been wondering if Google+ will feed into the organic search results and how that would work. Looking at some of the guidelines and help files shows that Google+ updates ‘may’ be fed into organic results and Google have put terms in their content policy to cover SEO’s trying to game this.
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From a web of links, to a web of likes, to a web of sentiment

I was drawn to a tweet by Steve Rubel, from Edelman Digital, earlier: Continue reading

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Web teams need to share knowledge to be most effective

I’ve held senior roles and run projects at major brands where I’ve been responsible for a large part of a web or ecommerce strategy and as a result responsible for a lot of the staff who make that strategy come to life. Every time I’ve taken on a new role or project at a large organisation I’ve been disappointed to see the lack of knowledge sharing that goes on both within the web team and between departments like tech, marketing and web.

It pains me every time I meet a web designer or developer who has no appreciation of how their work can affect a sites SEO, or a marketer who has no appreciation of how important content is and how users like to consume content online or a content producer with no appreciation of how users like to search on Google and how content affects your ranking.

I’m not saying that your designers should be SEO experts, far from it, I just believe that your website would be more effective if the people in charge of certain disciplines had an appreciation and understanding of how that discpline affects and complements the others. This goes for agencies too; personally I wouldn’t hire an SEO agency who didn’t at least understand the relationship between SEO and content and code and how getting all of them right is (generally) going to deliver better results for the business than just getting one of them right (or performing all three activities in total isolation).

In my experience, brands with internal web teams benefit more if there is a mutual understanding of what each area does and how they can impact each other. This can foster better relationships, improve personal development opportunities for staff and result in better results and ROI from all of your web activities. Let your teams share knowledge, present to each other what it is they do and why they need help and understanding from other disciplines and try to encourage a passion for the wider web and digital world in general (believe me, enthused staff are happy and productive staff).

Once you foster a culture of learning and sharing in your organisation you will soon begin to see the benefits. Nothing is more pleasing than seeing developer staff get up from their seats and head down to marketing because they have an idea that will improve a social media campaign landing page or for a content writer to go and talk to your search staff before writing copy for some new pages.

Building and managing websites requires ongoing input and understanding from all disciplines otherwise your website will never perform as well as it could have.

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Operation Window Seat

Someone I follow tweeted a link to the design & aesthetics blog which showed their Operation Window Seat series of posts containing photos taken from the window of planes. I love photos which show features of the earth from above so thought I’d dig around in my Flickr sets to see what I could find from my collections.

I could only find two decent shots which were both taken over Siberia en route to Japan (on separate trips). That could be something to do with the amazing scenery and frozen landscape but more likely it’s because I get incredibly bored on longhaul flights. Enjoy!

Frozen Siberian rivers

The Siberian landscape is incredible particularly the snaking, winding frozen rivers

Frozen rivers in Siberia

Guess the airline? ;-)

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Why you (as a brand) need a strong and effective online presence

I’m always amazed by the way some brands and even some whole industries still seem to ignore the web as a viable channel for communication, content, sales, PR or even advertising. What does it take to persuade them that they can’t just ignore the online medium and at the very least they need to take steps to engage with their online audience (because they’ll have an online audience even if they haven’t got a website)? So I like to highlight statistics that will help to make this clear. The three charts below are from FEED: The 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Report. It’s a great report produced by a great agency and in my opinion these stats are very persuasive!

So, how a user experiences your brand online can have positive or negative bearings on how they feel about you. This is going on even if you don’t have a website, don’t do social media or don’t actively do any online PR or advertising. Your potential customers are still having experiences that are linked to your brand in their own conversations and online journey whether you are actively involved or not. Wouldn’t it be better to establish your own presence so you can increase the positive sentiment and work to address the negative?

Now the above is a powerful chart! If 97% of web users could have their purchase decisions positively (or negatively) influenced by your online presence doesn’t that make it something worth investing in?

Again, the above is hugely powerful. If an online experience can turn someone into a new customer then why aren’t you working your digital assets to your advantage?

As I said I aim this at those industries and brands who seem to lag behind the adoption curve when it comes to the web (I’m thinking of a lot of the financial services industry, a surprising amount of the FMCG sector and some service industries). The general message here is that you have a lot to gain by improving your presence on the internet, making it easy to interact with, useful to those you’re trying to attract and engaging so people want to interact.

Suggest you read the report which is available online here.

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Financial markets and social media: adapt to adopt

Social media and social networks are a part of our daily lives. They’ve now been accepted as more than just entertainment. It’s taken a while but the world of business has now realised that it can no longer ignore them (or the web) as a channel of communication to reach its customers and interact with them. Businesses are all rushing to find a way to utilise Twitter and Facebook, some are doing it well others are failing, but most industries are at least trying. One industry who’s finding it more difficult though is financial services.

Financial services companies such as banks, analysts, brokers, traders and insurers all have a duty under various laws to keep copies of all communications with clients, customers and counterparties (particularly when it comes to discussions giving advice). This paper trail is required to ensure there’s no bias, insider dealing, dodgy advice or plain lying going on. The problem is, social networks like Twitter and Facebook don’t allow these companies to archive and store their communications making it very difficult for them to become meaningfully involved in actual two-way conversations.

This is a recognised issue now in the industry and even regulators recognise the potential benefits of being able to properly engage online. FINRA (the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) in the U.S. has set up a Social Networking Task Force (discussed at their annual meeting recently) to explore how regulation can embrace these of technological advancements rather than hinder their adoption.

Now, while I can understand the need for due diligence, archiving, transparency and regulation around financial services, surely the industry needs to grow up and realise it’s time to ease these shackles and allow the conversation to flow. The conversation is happening anyway; in phone calls, cafes, restaurants and bars financial industry execs meet with clients, colleagues and competitors and discuss exactly the kind of issues that generally should be on the record (this has been happening for ever). At least if these types of conversations happen online they will be archived by Google if nothing else. Surely the regulators need to accept that their industry will be dragged kicking and screaming into the sociable world of online media whether they like it or not? Time to adapt in order to adopt modern methods of social business communication! The benefits of allowing the conversation to happen far outweigh the negatives.

Of course the other way this could play out is that Twitter and Facebook provide a way for these types of companies to engage through special accounts which allow for archiving and provide regulatory compliance. Personally I don’t think that would be a good thing as it would place restrictions on their interactions and mould financial services use of social media rather than letting it grow and adapt organically. I’ve had many conversations with people from financial services on just this topic and they agree, they don’t want to be restricted and want to use social media as any other business would.

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Some of the people I've worked with and for:

About Steve Evans

I’ve been working in senior digital & e-commerce roles for 16 years so I’ve got a wealth of experience to share. I specialise in online travel, e-commerce and also have a focus on reinsurance, risk and particularly insurance-linked securities / catastrophe bonds. I live and breathe the internet & risk transfer, am tech savvy, user experience focused, think out-of-the-box, offer design & research driven business consultancy and always keep business goals in mind. Read more about me

My ventures

I run a successful portal and blog devoted to the reinsurance, alternative risk transfer and catastrophe bond markets. I’ve managed Artemis for 11 years and am now the owner of this site. Visit Artemis.

I’m a partner in a start-up offshore/onshore energy risk modelling and transfer firm called CatVest Petroleum Services LLC.

Connect & contact

You can find out more about me and the various things I do over on Linkedin.
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